One of the most offensive things about the cross of Christ has always been its leveling aspect, giving “insider” access to prostitutes, tax collectors, and the pariahs of society just as much as to religious and cultural elites; to Gentiles just as much as to Jews. The wretched thief on the cross didn’t and couldn’t do anything “good” to save himself, but Jesus still welcomed him into his kingdom.
This is offensive.
He follows this with a recounting of a marvelous scene of forgiveness. “Our pride makes it hard for us to stomach the notion that ‘earning’ or ‘deserving’ are not words that exist in God’s vocabulary of grace.”
For Good Friday (via Dave Lull) a meditation from National Review on Holy Week by the late D. Keith Mano:
Again, I think not. God prefers, when He can, to conserve terrestrial order. He has a dramatic instinct. And His own peculiar unities. The Passion is as naturalistic as frail wrist tissue shredded by a spike. Jesus could ferment water. He could infinitely divide the loaf and the fish. But here He had need of a furnished apartment. His colt might have come about providentially, as Abraham’s ram came about, caught in some thicket. But God wanted a known colt: one that had memorable references in Jerusalem. It was His purpose to leave a clear and historical track behind — evidence that might stand up in court. The presence of transcendent power among modest instruments is more persuasive than any bullying miracle could be.
Beginning with words from Psalm 22, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me,” a new video from The Church of England puts Jesus’ words in the mouths of today’s rejected people before turning to celebrate our Lord’s resurrection.
“What this film shows is that God is with us in those struggles and Easter represents the triumph of Jesus over those struggles,” says the Church’s Director of Communications.
Here’s hoping all of England will hear the full meaning of the gospel this year and be transformed, not by their good wishes and sentimentality, but by the Living Word of God. Because Christ didn’t come into this world to merely sympathize with us and tell us to keep our hopes up and be nice to each other. He came to deliver us from bondage, from the hatred and lies that come from living on our own. He came to give us new life, which is literally new life, not some tired, exaggerated metaphor.
What we have on our own doesn’t work. Both subtly and overtly, we’ve earned God’s condemnation. We’re like filthy farmhands crashing an upscale wedding. We think the wedding host and guests are supposed to be loving, accepting people, so we should be able to walk in off the field and be ourselves. The doormen said if we washed up and put on the formal apparel they would give us, we could join the party, but we said we didn’t need that. We were kicked out.
Now, it might take a while to talk through the reasons we were kicked out, but Easter celebrates the fact that we will be accepted, if we will accept the washing and clothing the host offers. No one will be turned away if he is willing to be made clean.
To paraphrase Tim Keller, the problem many churches have is that they say add a little Jesus to your life and everything will be good in the end. No need to change your life. Just keep your hopes up. But such a message short-changes the gospel, which is intended to change us completely. New life is totally new, beyond our old expectations. Just as Jesus went into the grave dead and returned alive, so he wants to take our old lives into the grave and bring us out gloriously renewed.
It’s a darker than usual Good Friday for me. I just got word that my boss, the dean of our seminary, a gentle and godly man, passed away suddenly today. He just wrote me a recommendation for graduate school. It must have been one of the very last things he did in his office.
He sat across from me in my office about a week ago, and we discussed our ages. I said I was pretty old to start working for a Master’s. He said, “I’m a decade older than you, and I’m not planning to go anywhere.”
Is it good to die on Good Friday? A complicated question, as is the whole matter of “Good” Friday.
As far as I can tell, there are two major ways of explaining evil in the world (outside of the popular view that “it’s all garbage, so let’s just have a good time until we die”) today. One is what might be called the Buddhist Way, which understands evil to be an illusion, because existence itself is an illusion, so there’s no point getting upset.
The other is what I’ll call the Christian Way (though there are probably non-Christians who hold it in some variety). That way calls for citing the Old Testament statement that “God is a Man of War,” and believing that evil is real, but that He is in the process of defeating it.